Mayors seek federal help with Lewes-Rehoboth Canal upkeep

10-mile waterway connecting Delaware and Rehoboth bays last dredged in 2002
September 17, 2021

The Lewes-Rehoboth Canal may not have made the state’s list of waterways to be dredged, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. The mayors of Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Henlopen Acres and Dewey Beach have signed and sent a letter to the state’s federal delegation asking for their help.

Dated Aug. 31 and signed by Mayors Ted Becker, Stan Mills, Dale Cooke and Joni Reich, the letter expresses their mutual concern over the state of the canal and requests the support of Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester in asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintenance dredge the entire 10-mile-long canal. It’s been nearly 20 years since it was last dredged, the letter says.

“In its current condition, the canal barely meets the demands of the boating public, which due to the heavy accumulation of silt, now has a very diminished expectation of using it based on the unreliability of channel depth,” reads the letter.

The submission of the letter by the mayors came to light during a Henlopen Acres commissioners meeting Sept. 10. Reich brought the subject forward as information to the other commissioners, all of whom agreed maintenance was necessary. Commissioner Tim Hidell said the town should send the letter to the North Shores community, noting, “You know, the letter could end up in front of someone pretty important over there, or at least his wife.”

Specifically to Henlopen Acres, Town Manager Tom Roth said when the town dredges its marina, the basin begins to silt back in almost immediately because the floor of the canal is roughly two feet higher than the floor of the marina.

The letter says if the canal is brought back to Corps-designed depths, then properly maintained and marked, “[it] will flourish as a well-used waterway with both transportation and scenic tourism attractiveness.”

Several reasons why the canal should be dredged are listed in the letter – the new canal access dock in Rehoboth, the Lewes Canalfront Park marina, the Henlopen Acres marina and the boat ramp at Roosevelt Inlet.

The canal requires infrastructure maintenance investment to return it to the specifications it was designed and originally built to, says the letter.

“Imagine the future where the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal serves its full potential. Right now, it certainly cannot,” said the letter.

Rehoboth Beach commissioners were slated to discuss the letter during their meeting Friday, Sept. 17.

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